Maia Sandu
Country: Moldova

Prime Minister of Moldova

Maia Sandu was born on 24 May 1972 in the village of Risipeni, in the region of Fălești, in Soviet Moldova. From 1989 to 1994, Sandu majored in management at the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (ASEM). Then, from 1995 to 1998, she majored in international relations at the Academy of Public Administration in Chisinau. In 2010, she graduated from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. From 2010 to 2012, Sandu worked as Adviser to the Executive Director at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. From 2012 to 2015 she served as Minister of Education of Moldova. She was considered on 23 July 2015 by the Liberal Democratic Party as a nominee to be the next Prime Minister of Moldova. A day after being proposed by a renewed pro-European coalition, Sandu set the departure of the Head of the National Bank of Moldova and the State Prosecutor as conditions for her acceptance of the office, which the ruling coalition refused to do. On December 23, 2015 she launched a platform „În /pas/ cu Maia Sandu” (“Keep pace with Maia Sandu”) that later became a political party called “Partidul Acțiune și Solidaritate” (“Party of Action and Solidarity”). In 2016, Maia Sandu was a candidate in the Moldovan presidential election. Running on a Pro-EU action platform, she came about 67,000 votes short against the pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon in the runoffs. With a relatively small margin of votes standing between the two candidates, it was Moldova’s oligarch in chief and now head of the Democratic Party Vlad Plahotniuc’s media holding (Prime, Canal 2, Canal 3, Publika) that played a decisive role in the outcome of the election. Furthermore, the four TV channels affiliated with Plahotniuc, together with Dodon’s loyal stations, openly pursued the same objective of undermining Maia Sandu’s candidacy. By sharing administrative resources as well as taking advantage of the considerable influence of Moldova’s Orthodox Church during the campaign, Plahotniuc and Dodon have indirectly become strategic allies, both working against Sandu. On June 8, 2019, Maia Sandu was sworn in as Prime Miniter of Moldova.

An interview with Maia Sandu, the politician at the heart of Moldova’s quiet revolution

After inconclusive parliamentary elections this February, Moldovan politics was left in limbo as the country’s three major political forces jockeyed to form a ruling coalition. And then the unexpected happened: the pro-Russian Socialist Party of Moldova and pro-European ACUM alliance joined forces to create an “anti-oligarchic” alliance, removing the ruling Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) and its junior partners from power. The oligarch in their sights was Vlad Plahotniuc - the country’s most powerful man, yet also its most elusive. His successive Democrat-led coalitions seemed to adroitly play to Brussels and Washington’s fears of Russian advances in the region in exchange for international backing. Meanwhile, criticism mounted that the rule of law was under attack in Moldova. A 2018 European Parliament resolution called the country a “captured state” and, in the wake of the invalidation of a mayoral election in Chișinău, the EU froze a tranche of badly needed structural funds. This year’s constitutional crisis was touched off by a court ruling that compelled Moldova’s parliamentarians to form a governing coalition or face fresh elections. With the deal between ACUM and the Socialists in place, parliament elected ACUM’s head Maia Sandu as Prime Minister, and the government soon began passing “anti-oligarchic” legislation in record time. In response, the Democrat government of Pavel Filip attempted to oust the president, Socialist Igor Dodon, and declared Sandu’s government illegitimate. For a week in June, the two forces were at loggerheads. Democratic Party supporters blockaded government buildings and many institutions refused to recognise the new government. Eventually, international pressure forced the Democrats to concede defeat. Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak started the ball rolling, while Plahotniuc appeared to realise the game was up after a closed meeting with US Ambassador Derek Hogan. He left the country shortly after, and Moldova’s most powerful man is now believed to be in London. Cautious optimism now reigns in Moldova’s capital of Chișinău. The alliance between the Socialists and ACUM is not a natural one, and Plahotniuc’s DPM is still believed to have extensive influence in many state institutions. Everybody knows what, or rather who, the new government stands against. But what does Moldova’s new order stand for? I sat down with Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu to find out.

PC CREDIT: Maia Sandu | (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved

Maia Sandu | (c) Maxim Edwards. All rights reserved Among other bold reforms to ensure transparent governance, your government has expressed an interest in transitional justice. Do you think it is too early yet to speak of an “overthrow of the oligarchic regime” in Moldova, as some people have described it? At least we managed to get the oligarch out of the country! But the most difficult part starts now: cleaning up the institutions, making these institutions independent, and bringing in professionals, especially into managerial positions, so that justice can start working. Our first task is to eliminate the influence that Vlad Plahotniuc still has on many institutions, and second we have to make sure that no-one, not Plahotniuc nor anyone else, in the future would be able to do what he did in the last few years. How do you plan to bring transparent governance to Moldova without being accused of settling scores with the old regime? In general, it seems the level of public trust in politics is quite low in Moldova. There is quite some support for the new government, and very high expectations that justice is going to start working properly, soon enough. This is a major challenge for us: a change of government doesn't mean a change of judges and prosecutors, some of whom are corrupt and have taken decisions under the influence of politicians or economic interest groups. Of course, we want to do everything correctly and have started to adopt laws in parliament which would help us break this vicious cycle and bring some independent people into the system. People who are not linked to any of the previous regimes, people who are not politically affiliated with us nor the Socialist Party, and people who have the courage to initiate and undertake very difficult reforms. What concrete mechanisms have you put in place to ensure a transparent selection of new professionals and state officials? We will be organising open competitions for these positions, and you will see that even some of the ministers in my government have no political affiliations. They’re good, specialist technocrats whom we brought in even from outside the country. The main objective was to have a very strong team, no matter what their political affiliations are. And we will definitely be insisting on transparent, competitive selection processes for all of the positions. "We know that the Prosecutor’s Office has been used all these years by the regime to deal with opponents, whether they were political opponents or businesspeople who didn’t follow Plahotniuc’s orders" In the justice system, it’s even more important to have independent people. The main challenge for us now is to get rid of the General Prosecutor, who is guilty of not investigating the major corruption schemes taking place in the country over all these years. We’re talking about the banking sector fraud four years ago, and by now not a single person is being prosecuted for that, and not a single cent recovered from this fraud, which cost 12% of Moldova’s GDP. At the same time, we know that the Prosecutor’s Office has been used all these years by the regime to deal with opponents, whether they were political opponents or businesspeople who didn’t follow Plahotniuc’s orders. This is the biggest challenge. And we hope that the General Prosecutor will resign, just as the head of the Constitutional Court did recently. If not, we could adopt legislation in parliament that would allow us to fire him, and then we will organise a transparent selection process. Vlad Plahotniuc is now out of the country - I understand, in London. Clearly, his influence is still quite significant in Moldova. For example, the situation with media ownership remains as before, and to some degree there’s little the Moldovan government can really do about that. What can Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor, the only politician convicted in the billion dollar bank fraud, expect from your government? I know that there have been some calls, for example, to include Plahotniuc on the Global Magnitsky List? Yes, we have been making requests in this respect. Some institutions from Moldovan civil society have even sent the necessary documentation to the US Treasury to consider Plahotniuc for the list. What can Vlad Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor expect? We hope to have an independent General Prosecutor soon enough - an independent, professional and responsible person who will ask the parliament, will ask us, to remove the immunity that these people have, and then for them to be subject to investigation for their previous crimes.

PC CREDIT: Vlad Plahotniuc | Source: Vlad Plahotniuc / Facebook.

Vlad Plahotniuc | Source: Vlad Plahotniuc / Facebook. Plahotniuc has said that he may return to Moldova “as soon as possible and as soon as [he and his family] feel safe.” It is outrageous to have the man who has terrorised many people and their families over the last three years say that he is concerned with his safety and the safety of his family. When we manage to get justice completely out of his control, Plahotniuc will be less willing to return. But we hope he will return to answer for all the abuses and illegal activities he is guilty of. Bigger changes might require an election. What’s the situation with electoral reform? We adopted the proportional representation system in parliament. We have already taken into account all the recommendations of the Venice Commission, and we expect the final reading of the new electoral law to be adopted in the next two weeks. If I’m not mistaken, local elections will be held in October. When do you expect to hold parliamentary elections? Local elections will happen on 20 October. In terms of parliamentary elections ,there could be a snap vote if the government loses support of parliament. And so far we have that support, which means that we can’t really speak about any date for parliamentary elections. How confident are you that your government will retain parliament’s support? Politics are very unpredictable in Moldova. Between the last two elections, the number of Democratic Party MPs mysteriously grew by quite a large number. Can you count on parliamentary support? In the past, it was Vlad Plahotniuc who bought members of parliament or blackmailed them into switching parties. Now we have a political partnership in parliament that is not exactly natural: between a pro-European and a pro-Russian force, and the common objective is the desire to free the country from the rule of the oligarchic regime. "The biggest challenge for this country is the fact that people don’t believe in it anymore, and then they leave" We have commitments from the Socialist Party that they will support the government’s programme, which is based on Moldova’s EU Association Agreement. And so far, the cooperation has been fine. It works. It’s difficult to say how long it will last. But even if we get to a point where we need to organise snap elections, at least they will be free and fair elections, organised by us and based on a proportional electoral system. Not elections like Plahotniuc organised in February, which had, you know, a lot of fraud and rigging. This brings me to my next question. According to your joint declaration with the Socialist Party, “de-oligarchisation” is your government’s main priority. People seemed to have put aside geopolitics in order to come together for this cause. What do you expect the main points of conflict to be with your new partners in the Socialist Party? Everybody knows that we are a pro-European force, that we promote Moldova’s integration with the EU, and that the Socialist Party promotes a closer relationship with Russia, with the Kremlin. The Socialist Party recently said that it is not against EU integration, that it is not against the Association Agreement, but we have to see how far they are ready to go in the process of implementing the Association Agreement reforms. Hopefully their commitment is authentic and there won’t be major issues that would interfere in our political partnership. Before this recent change of government, there had been some moves towards reconciliation with Transnistria. As I understand it, there was a confluence of interests on both sides of the Dniester that played a role in that. What is your government’s approach to the reconciliation or reintegration process with Transnistria? Moldova’s previous government continued to participate in corruption schemes and smuggling together with the regime in Tiraspol. And that’s one of the main issues on our agenda: to stop these corruption schemes, to eliminate smuggling to the greatest extent possible. We are counting on the help of the Ukrainian authorities in this regard. Otherwise we are ready to consider projects that can bring people together on both banks of the Dniester, and we’ll do our best in terms of showing that on the right bank we have better living standards, so that people on the left bank would feel motivated to support the reunification of the country. We understand that the final resolution of the conflict is a more complicated issue, which will arise when there is a geopolitical opportunity to finally settle the conflict. Thinking of the wider neighbourhood, what do you think Moldova can learn from the recent changes of government in Armenia and Ukraine when it comes to anti-corruption and accountability? We need to move really quickly on reforming the judiciary and building strong anti-corruption institutions. If you don’t use the opportunity and the popular support you have for these reforms, later it may be more difficult. There are some good experiences we can learn from, but also some mistakes to be avoided. I am establishing a prime ministerial board of advisors with people from Romania, Georgia and Ukraine who could advise us on how to go about reforming the justice sector and building strong anti-corruption institutions. I think there are good experiences, especially in Romania. I am still to learn more about Armenia, but I believe that they didn’t move quick enough in terms of cleaning up the justice sector, and I’m not sure, but it seems now that things are not moving quite as people wanted them to.

PC CREDIT: Banners calling on President Igor Dodon to resign, 8 June | (c) Vladimir Solov'ev/Kommersant/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved

on President Igor Dodon to resign, 8 June | (c) Vladimir Solov'ev/Kommersant/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved For example, the plans to invite Romanian anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Kövesi to Moldova? Yes, that’s right. We’d also like the ability to hire a General Prosecutor who is not a citizen of Moldova, but we need to reach an agreement with the Socialist Party in parliament. If we don’t get this agreement, then of course our objective still remains to have a strong, professional and independent person to carry out these reforms. How confident are you that these reforms will help rebuild the relationship with Brussels? Do you have hopes for the financial aid packages to be unfrozen as a result? Definitely. Last week, Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited from Brussels, and we talked about all the projects and all the assistance which has been frozen over the last two years. We also discussed the specific steps that we need to take to unfreeze EU assistance. Commissioner Hahn said he’s optimistic that we could see the first money come to Moldova in the fall. During my time reporting from Moldova, a strong sentiment I’ve heard is the desire to emigrate to the EU. People are exasperated with corruption, low living standards and lack of job opportunities. With the high rate of emigration in mind, do you have any vision for enticing Moldovans to stay and build their futures here? Of course, that’s the biggest challenge for this country - the fact that people don’t believe in it anymore, and then they leave. We need to change that. We have to make people believe that they have a good future in this country, especially for those who are still here and are thinking about leaving. We also need to reach out to those who have left: I have three ministers in my cabinet who are from the diaspora, who left their jobs with international organisations abroad and came back to help. In the next few days, we are going to launch an appeal to other people in the diaspora, to come back. There are going to be lots of new positions opening up, and we need people to participate so that we can choose the best. It’s going to take some time, but I hope that people who left the education and health sectors, businesspeople too, can come back to Moldova to help us rebuild the economy and create a society where everybody is content. What is your general vision for economic reform? When you were education minister, there were quite a few Moldovans who were unhappy with your reforms and the closures of local schools over which you presided. What’s your plan here? The economy in this country has a chance to grow if we manage to improve the business environment: corruption, monopolies, the preferential tax regime and harassment made many Moldovan businesses move abroad. The fact that, today or tomorrow, somebody could just come and take your business away. The fact that nobody would defend your property was one of the biggest issues. The second issue is the labour force. It’s about education and it’s also about having people in the country. There are already shortages of human resources because people are leaving for the reasons we’ve spoken about. These two issues are the most important for a strong economy. Do you think that improving labour conditions might play a role there? There are quite a few reports of international companies who have been using sweatshop-style labour in Moldova. This is an issue. Of course, when you have so few jobs, many people don’t have a choice. When weak state institutions can’t ensure that labour conditions are respected, that’s an issue. So the more the job market develops, the more choice there will be for people, and they will not be forced to stay in a job where their labour conditions are not respected and their salaries aren’t good enough. As a journalist, I read with concern the recent report from investigative journalists RISE Moldova about the surveillance of political opponents, activists, and independent journalists in the country. I’ve heard from several Moldovan journalists that they have felt unsafe working here in recent years. What will your government do to ensure press freedom? That was one example of how bad the regime was. The fact that they got into people’s houses, and they filmed them when they were on their own property. This is awful, and it’s why I’ve suggested from the very first days to stop these acts and start investigating them. The problem is that the Prosecutor’s Office, which has to investigate these violations, is part of the violations that have been taking place! April 2017: journalist Vladimir Soloviev records a surveillance operation against him in Chișinău. Source: We have to clean up the Prosecutor’s Office so that new people can come in and investigate these abuses. I met with representatives of the press during my first week in this office, and we came up with a plan of action on saving the free press in Moldova. This starts with getting the audio-visual committee out of the control of Plahotniuc, this is about making the competition council competitive, this is about demonopolising the advertisement market, because this was one instrument which the regime was using against the independent press, among other things. I’ve made it clear to all my colleagues in state institutions that they should be transparent, that they should provide all the information that journalists request, that they should be friendly to the press, because I really believe that the press is one of the most important pillars of democracy. My final question is this: I can’t help but notice that you’re wearing a T-shirt with the word “revolution” on it. Is that how you would describe the changes in Moldova? Yes! That’s how we feel about it. And now this revolution needs to be transformed into an evolution.

Outstanding Achievements
Maia Sandu: Common Sense Prevails in Moldova

Recent presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova were won by Maia Sandu of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS), a party advocating for judicial and anti-corruption reform and for rapprochement with the European Union (EU). Sandu becomes the first female president of Europe’s poorest country, securing 57.7 percent of the vote ahead of incumbent Igor Dodon’s 42.2 percent. The result followed an unprecedented election campaign during which verbal violence was widely witnessed. President-elect Sandu was previously an economist with the World Bank, served as Moldova’s Minister of Education between 2012 and 2015, and is known for her anti-corruption and justice reform agenda. She served as prime minister of Moldova for almost five months in 2019 as head of ACUM, a pro-Euro alliance between PAS and the Dignity and Truth Platform Party (PPDA). Having secured 26 seats in parliament, ACUM formed a coalition government with Dodon’s Party of the Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PRSM). The hastily made decision to join forces with a pro-Russian party was to oust controversial oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc from power. Plahotniuc fled to the United States in June 2019 before being forced to leave again in the summer of 2020. Though far from home, the oligarch participated in presidential election campaign debates, sparking accusations of collusion from both sides. President-elect Sandu's four percent victory in the first round of voting placed a ball and chain on Dodon, who led one of the most threatening, and ultimately disastrous, election campaigns in Moldova’s history. Dodon is considered by many as an aggressive, boorish, and misogynistic politician. In the end, he upset and insulted voters with his behavior, compelling them to turn out and vote. High voter turnout amongst the Moldovan diaspora, which is sizable in comparison with other EU countries, was a factor in Sandu’s victory. Of a total 1,650,000 voters, more than 260,000 ballots were cast by the diaspora, despite the small number of polling places established by authorities. Moldova’s diaspora had grown used to aggressive criticisms from Dodon, who dubbed them 'parallel voters,’ a phrase echoing the notion of a 'parallel state.’ It was therefore unsurprising that no less then 93 percent of ballots cast outside the borders of Moldova were for Sandu. Even the cumulated traditional election pools of pro-Russian separatists in Transdnestr, with paid voters bussed into the polls, and the southern Gagauz region voters, who voted 85 and 95 percent for Dodon respectively, were unable to sway the ballot. As such, Sandu would have won the election even without diaspora votes, further bolstering her legitimacy. Many hope Sandu's victory can once again set Moldova – a small state with not much more than 2.5 million people (excluding separatist Transdnestr) and on the margins of the former Soviet empire – on a European path and away from Russian influence. The importance of this region was significantly enhanced with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the nearly outright war between Russia and Ukraine in the eastern Donbass region. Moldova could be a valuable partner for the West as a strategic entry point, given its proximity to Odessa, the Danube Delta, and the Russian Black Sea fleet moored in Sevastopol, only a few hundred kilometers from American bases in Romania. Though of less strategic importance for Moscow following the annexation of Crimea, the separatist region of Transdnestr remains a destabilizing threat for Moldova, NATO, southeastern Ukraine, and eastern Romania. If Sandu manages to gain political support for her ambitious reform agenda, Moldova could become an oasis of stability and prosperity in just a few years, with a predictable political landscape. Moldova could easily become a 'success story' of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), launched over a decade ago by the European Union in an effort to extend a hand to six former Soviet Republics. What once seemed an overly ambitious project, the EaP has changed the trajectory of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova by bringing them closer to the West. However, the present configuration of Moldova’s Parliament prevents PAS from forming a reform majority. Both Dodon and Sandu campaigned on the prospect of early parliamentary elections but faced a difficult path in gaining the majority needed to trigger them. Even pro-European political parties, with the exception of PAS, are unlikely to accept early elections given their very presence in a future parliament is on shaky ground. Moldova's recent history has shown hope. In order for Sandu to avoid making the same mistakes as other pro-European leaders in Chișinău – many of whom ended up compromising the European vector of development, making it synonymous with corruption and organized crime – she must generate a veritable political revolution that can lead to early elections. This will enable a new pro-reform majority in parliament and establish a new pro-European government to partner with the president. While Sandu’s victory has sparked hopes amongst the Moldovan people, with many now holding high expectations for her presidency, her powers are in fact limited. In 2016, under the control of Plahotniuc, Moldova’s Constitutional Court ruled that the president should be elected by popular vote. This was an attempt to diffuse the political situation at a time when people were taking to the streets to protest against the regime. While she enjoys tremendous legitimacy, Sandu has limited leverage to be able to change things. An early parliamentary election will only be made possible with intricate political negotiations between parties, pressure from citizens and foreign entities, combined the legitimacy through her landslide victory. The sooner things are achieved, the better the chances of there being a pro-presidential reform coalition. The scheduled elections of 2023 would mean a trench war with a reform-hostile parliamentary majority kowtowing to Moscow, and a government of Dodon socialists whose main objective would be election retaliation in two years’ time. However, the social and economic crisis facing Moldova calls for reforms that can encourage foreign financing, on which the country is sorely dependent. In order to regain credibility with the EU, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Moldova needs a new government, supported by a reform-oriented coalition in Parliament in Chișinău. Neither can emerge unless early elections are held.

New President Wants To End Moldova's Isolation, But The Obstacles Remain Daunting

CHISINAU -- Monica Macovei, a former European Parliament member and Romanian justice minister, sees the election of Maia Sandu as Moldova's next president in stark terms: For one of Europe's poorest countries, it's an opportunity for a "a new beginning" that must not be missed. "At present, there is no other chance to save Moldova," Macovei, now an expert with Harvard University's Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, told RFE/RL. "This president has a chance. She wants to do it and -- this is important -- she has the necessary knowledge and will be given international support, help from the European Union and the United States and the entire democratic community," Macovei said. "Plus, she has the support of the population of Moldova." Vladimir Socor, an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, agrees that Sandu's election marks a fundamental change for Moldova: The first time in its post-Soviet history that it will have a Western-educated, English-speaking technocratic president who he said was "able to communicate directly and on an equal footing with European leaders and with international leaders in general." Sandu beat pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon in a runoff election on November 15, winning 58 percent of the vote in a decisive victory that supporters say gives her a strong mandate for reform. "The one who was defeated in the presidential election...was not necessarily Dodon," Socor said. "The Soviet Union was defeated in Moldova. The remnants of the Soviet Union were defeated in the Republic of Moldova."

PC CREDIT: Maia Sandu as she arrives to cast her vote in the country's presidential election runoff in Chisinau, Moldova, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020 - Copyright AP Photo/Roveliu Buga

As Kremlin Critics Toast The Defeat Of Moldova's Pro-Russian President, Others Say Moscow's Influence Will Remain

The landlocked country of some 3.5 million people is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. According to World Bank figures, Moldova has the second-lowest per capita GDP in Europe after Ukraine. Riddled with corruption and perhaps best-known internationally for a 2014 bank-fraud scandal that saw $1 billion disappear, depriving the country of 12 percent of its annual GDP, Moldova ranks last among European countries on the UN Human Development Index.

More Than Moscow

A 48-year-old former World Bank economist and prime minister, Sandu eschewed geopolitics during the election campaign, focusing on her pledges to combat corruption, strengthen Moldova's institutions of governance, and build on the country's Association Agreement with the European Union. She campaigned on a "pragmatic approach" to Moldova's national interests that would encompass dialogue with "Ukraine, Romania, European nations, Russia, and the United States." Such a balanced approach, however, is already a significant change from the country's isolation under Dodon, who concentrated almost exclusively on ties with Russia and whose main achievement as president was gaining for Moldova observer status in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union in 2017. During his four years in office, Dodon traveled to Moscow more than 30 times, but he never visited neighboring Ukraine or Romania, even though Romania is by far Moldova's largest trading partner.

PC CREDIT: Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Moldovan counterpart Igor Dodon at the Kremlin in Moscow in January 2019.

Under Dodon, Moldova's relations with Ukraine were "diplomatically amputated," said Leonid Litra, an analyst with the New Europe Center in Kyiv. Dodon de facto placed Moldova in a state of "diplomatic quarantine," he added, that prevented the country from developing a "dynamic agenda." The stark contrast between Sandu and Dodon has continued since the election. The president-elect's office immediately began arranging post-inauguration visits by Sandu to Bucharest and Kyiv, while Dodon announced he would be traveling for consultations to Moscow as he prepares to return to head the Socialist Party's faction in parliament. "It was an absolutely abnormal situation when we did not go to the neighbors and the neighbors did not come to us," Chisinau-based political analyst Alexei Tulbure told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service. "That is over now. Now we will have a completely different situation."

On To The Next Battle

Although Sandu's victory gives Moldova a new direction of leadership, she faces more fights ahead in order to implement her vision. Moldova is essentially a parliamentary republic, and the president's formal powers are sharply limited. "Her victory is great news," said former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. "But is it only a chance for Moldova. It does not mean that tomorrow or the next day everything automatically turns out for the best. Maia Sandu has many opponents, many of whom will try to damage her by instigating political crises in her country. And we know it has been swinging from one political crisis to another for some time now."


The cabinet wields most executive power, and it is currently headed by Ion Chicu, a former Dodon aide who was confirmed as prime minister on November 14, 2019, and made his first visit to Moscow six days later. It is a minority government dominated by Dodon's Socialist Party, which controls 37 of the parliament's 101 seats.

Early Elections, But When?

With the presidential election behind it, Moldova’s ongoing political crisis now moves to parliament. Legislative elections are scheduled for 2023, but there is strong pressure for early elections in the wake of Dodon's defeat. "Rarely has there been such broad consensus in Moldova regarding the weak legitimacy of the current parliament and the need for early elections," Romanian analyst Stanislav Secrieru wrote in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center. "But the consensus among political parties exists only in words, not in deeds. Most of the political forces in parliament resent the idea of early elections, as many might not accede again or will secure fewer seats." It is only possible to dissolve parliament and call new elections in Moldova if the government resigns, usually following a vote of no confidence, and a new one is not approved in two tries or within 45 days or if the legislature goes 90 days without passing any legislation. Analyst Tulbure thinks it is virtually inevitable that Chicu will resign. "We need a different government," he said. "We need a different majority, and we need a legitimate parliament and government." "The current parliament is completely dysfunctional," Socor agreed. "It includes too many corrupt and 'runaway' deputies [deputies who have left their factions and form alliances of personal political convenience]. It is a parody of a parliament." In an interview with RFE/RL on November 23, Chicu said he would not resign preemptively, although he recognized the urgent need for early elections. He noted that his government had only minority support in parliament and could be ousted by a vote of no confidence.

Moldova's 'Best Chance'

This situation, and Moscow's position on it, will likely top the agenda when Dodon meets in Russia with President Vladimir Putin's deputy chief of staff, Dmitry Kozak, who oversees Moldovan affairs for the Kremlin. So far, the Socialist Party has resisted the push for early elections. Its position will likely not become clearer until a party congress scheduled for December, at which Dodon's fate could also be decided. As president, Sandu will step down from the leadership of her Party of Action and Solidarity. The party will also hold a congress in December. If the conditions to trigger early elections are achieved and if the Party of Action and Solidarity, which currently holds 15 mandates, is able to make significant gains, Sandu would have a much easier time implementing her agenda. However, it would consume much of the first year of her presidency. If, on the other hand, the country limps along with a parliament and government that lack popular support, Sandu's vision may remain little more than rhetoric. Socor believes Sandu has matured politically a great deal since she was defeated by Dodon in the 2016 presidential election, adding significant political acumen to her established technocratic resume. "I think that Sandu is the most competent leader that the Republic of Moldova has had since its declaration of independence," he told RFE/RL. "She will know what to do."